Before a fired-up, massive crowd that waited hours to hear him, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a crowd of 30,000 at West Chester’s The Square of Center Pointe that he represents “real change” and that he needs them to help him win the key state of Ohio Tuesday.
“Your state is the one I am counting on,’’ said Romney, who trails Barack Obama by a small margin in some Ohio polls. “This is the state we have to win.”
Romney, surrounded by dozens of state and national Republican leaders, along with his running mate Paul Ryan, spoke at about 8:30 p.m. – five hours after the gates opened at the venue in West Chester, in the heart of Butler County, one of the most Republican counties in the state.
West Chester Fire Chief Tony Goller estimated the crowd at The Square at Centre Point at 30,000.
“This is about the future we leave to our children,’’ Romney told the crowd that was bundled up against the night chill. “And we ask you to stay with us all the way through Tuesday.”
The former Massachusetts governor told the crowd that President Obama – who will hold his own rally Sunday at the University of Cincinnati’s Fifth Third Arena – has left a trail of broken promises from his campaign four years ago.
“He promised to become the first post-partisan president,’’ Romney said, with his wife Ann at his side. “Instead, he became the most divisive president.”
“The unemployment rate is higher today than it was when he took office,’’ Romney said, referring to Friday’s national jobs report that showed unemployment rose to 7.9 percent in October compared to 7.8 percent in September.
“Instead of bridging the divide, he has made it wider,’’ Romney said. “Today he makes new promises, promises he can’t keep. The question comes down to this – do you want four more years of the same or do you want real change?”
Often during his half hour speech, Romney was interrupted by the crowd chanting “four more days.”
Ryan, who went to college at Miami University in Butler County, spoke before Romney and told the crowd “Ohio, you are the linchpins of linchpins” in this election.
Over the past four years, Ryan said, “the deficit has doubled; and this is the most partisan time we have ever had.”
Obama, Ryan said, talked four years ago “about all the jobs he would create if we borrowed all this money and give it to special interest groups. It didn’t happen.”
“The good news,’’ Ryan said, “Is that we don’t have to take this any more.”
Real Clear Politics, a website that tracks national and state polling, averaged the nine most recent polls in Ohio and had Obama up by 2.4 percent in the Buckeye State. Only one poll, Rasmussen Reports, had Romney ahead here.
Beverly Ackerson of Ross was at the rally; standing in the overflow area. She said she had already voted.
“No question about it,’’ said Ackerson. “People said they voted for change last year. I voted for Mitt Romney and real change.”
It was a star-studded event for the Romney campaign, dubbed by Republicans as “Republican National Convention II” – not only for the huge crowd, but the long list of well-known national Republicans who came to The Square at Centre Point in West Chester.
It was not only Romney, Ryan, their spouses and all five Romney sons, but GOP “bigfeet” like House Speaker John Boehner, who lives only a few miles from the rally venue; former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee; and a host of other Republican governors and senators, including Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman.
Golf legend Jack Nicklaus and Olympic champion skater Derek Parra were also on hand.
Giuliani called President Obama “the worst president for our economy ever.”
“The greatest country in the history of the world, and our growth rate is at 1.2 percent,’’ Guiliani said. “He should resign.”
Many of the GOP elected officials were to fan out across the state this weekend, doing get-out-the-vote events for the Romney-Ryan ticket.
Holding a massive rally in West Chester four days before the election was a deliberate move by the Romney-Ryan campaign.
They know perfectly well what happened here – in Butler County – eight years ago, when President George W. Bush was locked in a tough fight with Democrat John Kerry.
Then, like now, Ohio held the key. Bush walked away on election night with Ohio’s electoral votes by a scant margin of about 118,000 votes out of about 5.6 million cast.
It put Bush over the top; and won him a second term in the White House.
And it probably would not have been possible had not Butler County –one of the most rock-solid Republican counties in the state - given him an edge of about 50,000 votes over Kerry.
Bush, though, had the advantage of having a constitutional amendment on the Ohio ballot banning gay marriage, which brought out tens of thousands of social conservative “values voters” who made it possible for the constitutional amendment to pass.
Romney campaign officials insist they have momentum on their side leading up to election day, but the Obama campaign is equally convinced it has constructed a firewall of early votes around the state that will prevent Romney from winning Ohio – even though, traditionally, more Republicans show up at the polls in Ohio on election day than Democrats.
Jeremy Bird, the Obama campaign’s national field director, said Friday that, so far, 866,798 early votes have come from Ohio counties that Obama won in 2008, compared to 448,635 from counties that voted for the GOP nominee four years ago.